The poem's title alludes to Mount Helicon, a mountain in Greek Mythology that was thought to be the source of two springs believed to be sacred to the muses and to inspire poetry. By alluding to this mythical mountain, the title clues readers' into the fact that what follow is going to be about artistic inspiration. However, as the title also makes clear, this poem is about the poet’s “Personal Helicon”: what poetic inspiration means to this poet in particular.
This source of inspiration then becomes clear in the poem's first two lines ("As a child [...] windlasses"). Just as mythical springs are sources of water, here the speaker invokes sources of water in connection with what inspires his poetry. However, these sources of water aren’t the lofty or far-off springs of Mount Helicon. Instead, they are the specific old water wells and water pumps that the speaker as a child could find in his local landscape. The speaker remarks that “they”—presumably the adults in his life—couldn’t keep him away from these wells, situating these adventures purely in the realm of childhood. The speaker also says that he was especially fascinated by wells' “buckets” (used to draw out the water) and “windlasses,” or the crank and pulley used to lower and lift the bucket out of the well.
While these opening lines feel relatively straightforward—the speaker makes clear that the poem will be about his childhood and these wells that he loved—several elements of sound and structure work to unify them and create a patterned opening to the poem. First, the alliteration of “wells” and “windlasses,” as well as the consonant /l/ sounds within these words, highlight these nouns and call special attention to them. In fact, the “they,” who tried to keep the speaker from going to these wells, fade from prominence as the musical parallels between these words implies that it was the wells, and everything associated with them, that received all the child-speaker’s attention.
From the outset of the poem, then, the speaker sets up a subtle juxtaposition between the world of adults (who might have tried to stop the child-speaker from exploring the wells out of concerns for his safety), and the world of children, who are drawn by their natural curiosity and inquisitiveness to the world around them.